Wednesday, November 12, 2014

China tablet processor market: Intel and MediaTek projected to gain share in Q4, Allwinner continues to decline

According to a recent report by DigiTimes, shipments of tablet applications processors in China grew slower than expected in Q3 2014, increasing only by 6%, affected by affordable models from global brand-name manufacturers. DigiTimes also published a forecast with estimated shipments and market share figures for the China market in Q4 2014, with overall shipments projected to increase by a modest 4.7%.

Intel pushing into Chinese tablet market

The articles do not give a complete overview of market share figures or shipments by company, but they do provide details about the strong growth of Intel's tablet processor chips in China (most likely primarily due to a push into the Chinese white-box market), growing to 2.5 million units (7.5% share) in Q3 2014, with a projection of about 5 million units (14.5% share) in Q4, reaching the number three position in terms of market share.

MediaTek highly competitive, with capacity constraints likely to improve for Q4

While MediaTek is reported to have seen 25% unit growth in worldwide tablet processor shipments in Q3, surpassing the worldwide unit shipment of Rockchip, in China MediaTek's shipments declined, with its market share in China declining from 27.2% to 22.6%. The overall unit growth for MediaTek probably for a large part reflects the ramp of design wins for Amazon Kindle tablets that are manufactured through Taiwanese ODMs. As I explained an earlier article, the MT8135V chip used by Amazon is likely to be relatively high-cost, low-margin chip that has taken up a significant portion of MediaTek's limited wafer capacity for tablet processors at TSMC, which is the likely explanation for the shipment decline in China as MediaTek has been unable to satisfy demand for its otherwise very efficient and cost-effective solutions for both WiFi-only and 3G-enabled tablets, prioritizing shipments for Amazon and other international brand-name manufacturers.

However, DigiTimes expects MediaTek to lead the Chinese tablet processor market in Q4 2014, which would be the first time MediaTek has achieved that position. This implies fairly strong shipment growth for MediaTek in China and must be the result of an improved wafer capacity situation. That MediaTek's capacity has become less limited is apparent in its revenue numbers for October 2014, which saw a significant increase over the prior month.

Rockchip's shipments less than expected, losing leadership position in Q4

Rockchip is reported to have seen shipments decline by about 12% in Q3, much worse than the estimates reported earlier by DigiTimes and discussed in an earlier blog post, which saw Rockchip significantly increasing it leadership position in Q3. It seems the estimates for Rockchip were indeed much too optimistic, also affected by Intel's growth, whose chips to a large extent cover the segment of Rockchip's high-volume mid-range RK3188(T) chip, which is also becoming less competitive from a manufacturing cost standpoint. Rockchip is transitioning to the more cost-effective quad-core Cortex-A7-based RK3126 for the cost-sensitive market, but it appears that this will not prevent Rockchip from losing its leadership position in China to MediaTek.

Allwinner continues to decline

Allwinner's shipments declined by 10% in Q3 2014 from an already relatively low base in Q2, providing evidence that the launch of its new low-cost A33 processor has failed to meet expectations (as discussed in my earlier blog post, there have already been signs that the A33 could be the latest of several consecutive more or less failed product introductions by Allwinner dating back to 2013, all of which show evidence of severe hardware or software engineering issues), and therefore isn't helping Allwinner to recover its market share. Indeed, DigiTimes projects another 17% decline in shipments for Allwinner in Q4 2014, causing it drop behind Intel in the unit shipment ranking. Because of the failed and delayed product introductions, Allwinner has seen its product mix for the high-volume cost-sensitive segment continue to get worse, with its remaining shipments mostly consisting of almost obsolete chips sold for fire-sale prices on which Allwinner cannot make a profit. Although Allwinner has recently brought the high-end A80(T) chip to market, the volume for this chip is likely to be limited with high costs so that it most likely has only worsened Allwinner's financial situation.

Sources: DigiTimes Research (Q3 China tablet AP shipments), DigiTimes Research (Q4 tablet AP shipment projections)

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